ROCKY RIVER, Ohio — If you drive just past the border of Bay Village and Rocky River around 7:00 a.m., you'll find 74-year-old George Kocar stopping in at Pier Beverage and Deli on Lake Road for a chocolate milk.
He does this routine every single morning, rain or shine, 365 days a year.
It's a five-mile loop from his Bay Village home. He's walking for his health, happiness, but mostly, for the dogs ... dozens of them to be exact.
"I started doing this route around 2004, but, the dog treats didn't come until much later," George said. "Around 2010, that's when I started playing with some of the dogs."
But over the years, "some" has turned into an army of loyal neighborhood friends, who patiently wait each morning for George to drop by with a treat. He says most mornings, he's rewarding between 20-40 dogs.
"Hi Rosie ... Hi Pepper!" George said to one of his doggie pals.
"Sophie want a treat? Want a treat?" He said to another. "Hey buddy! How's Happy doing? How's Happy?"
He knows all their names and their stories, too.
"Sully boy just went blind in June … I don't know why, but he can't see too well," he told us on one of his walks.
Yet, Sully always knows when George is there.
"Oops. Sully Boy, it's right here," George said, guiding Sully to a treat.
Along his route, some dogs stand at attention. While others just need it.
"I'm coming Ripley, I'm coming!" He said to one pooch.
His name is Ripley, and he doesn't even want a treat. He just wants George's love.
"Sooo excited. I know, what's going on here?" George said to Ripley, while rubbing his tummy.
Around Rocky River, George is a celebrity.
"The dog man? The famous George! Wow, well he is famous around here," said one dog owner.
"You have no idea how many admirers this man has," said another.
They all bask in the joy he leaves at each stop.
George is very friendly. And I know from experience with Jake hearing George that he loves Jake and Jake loves him," said Bill Ridmann of his dog Jake.
He's been an animal lover all his life.
"At one time we used to have 10 cats and the dog," George said.
George is a family man, too: A wife and two grown daughters. He's also a talented and accomplished artist.
"Eighteen years for American Greetings," he told us proudly.
George also spent time as a freelance illustrator for The Plain Dealer and top magazines. These days, you'll find hundreds of paintings on his Facebook page.
"Well I do a daily dog, a daily cat," he said.
Some of which have deep meaning.
"So this was the first painting that George did for us. And this is Noel. It was a Christmas gift for us," Stacey Reid said of a painting George did of her beloved, late pet.
Her dog, Noel, passed five years ago. She was George's best buddy.
"The love that she had for George was so deep and you could see it every time she would look into his eyes. And I have pictures, thank God for the memory. But they were just two peas in a pod and loved each other very much," Stacey told us while wiping away tears.
When it was Noel's turn to cross the Rainbow Bridge, Stacey called George.
"He came with us to the vet to say goodbye," she said.
George gave Noelle her last treat.
"That was so ... I mean, so heartbreaking," George said.
"He literally is, you know, part of our family and will be forever," Stacey said.
It's bittersweet. The love he feels for all his fur friends, and the pain, that comes with losing them. In the end, George would still pick the simple joys he feels every morning, on his walk of kindness, for the dogs.
"I enjoy it and, I know the dogs enjoy it. And ... and it just makes me happy. It just ... it makes me happy," George said.
If you'd like to see some of George's art, he has a show, "Humanimal," coming up on September 15, at West 78th Street Studios. For more information, click HERE.
MORE FROM WKYC: